Eat Beetroot, Be a Better Athlete
Poor beetroot has always been a bit of a nobody vegetable. It’s never the first to be picked for a salad, it’s really kind of odd tasting, it’s a bit of a messy faff to prepare, and let’s be honest – nobody wants red pee.
But it seems beets have something to prove; you shouldn’t judge a vegetable by its ugliness. There’s a veritable nutritional powerhouse concealed behind the gnarly-ness that has led to a whole host of professional athletes jumping on the beetroot bandwagon and chugging its juice to boost their performances, which has seen it dubbed ‘legal blood doping’. Yep, there has been quite a furor over just how powerful the juice from this unassuming vegetable can be to athletic performance.
The secret to beetroot’s power lies in its superior nitrate content. Nitric oxide aids the widening of the blood vessels which facilitates blood flow and reduces oxygen consumption and lowers blood pressure, thus increasing stamina during exercise.
One study carried out on male cyclists showed that the athletes could cycle for 16% longer and their time to exhaustion was lengthened when consuming 500ml of beetroot juice compared to a control group. In other words, it enables the body to do the same amount of work with less effort.
Can’t I just eat it?
Yes of course! Beetroot has a whole load of additional goodness besides its nitrates, so add it to your salads and smoothies, and roast it up as a side dish to dose up on antioxidants, But for a quick and easily absorbed hit, Beet It Sport devised their mighty little shots, so you get the good stuff in one swig.
How I Incorporate Beetroot into Race-Day
I’ve taken beetroot shots before the last 4 of my running races, and PR-ed in all of them. Now of course I’m not suggesting this was solely down to the beets – I trained hard for those races. But I do believe that quality training, nutrition, rest AND the addition of beetroot (and a stellar playlist, obviously) all come together to make me perform my absolute best on race day.
I’ve read up a lot on how best to take the juice and it seems that the effects are strongest 1-3 hours after consumption and continue to benefit the body for up to 24 hours. I’ve found that what works for me is taking one 70ml shot (equivalent to about 300ml of un-concentrated juice) 12 hours before the start, so this is usually the night before, and another an hour before I begin running, along with a cup of coffee. There’s nothing like caffeine and nitrates to make for speedy legs IMHO.
Unless you’re shooting for otherwise hard-to-reach PR s , and you otherwise have all other elements of training and nutrition up to scratch it’s probably not worth investing in beetroot juice beyond eating it in conventional form. However it’s definitely worth giving it a try if you’re serious about your sporting success – Let me know if you give it a go!